To say it has been a while since we've seen Sly Cooper and his friends in a new adventure is an understatement. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves was released not long before the launch of the PlayStation 3, and since then, Sucker Punch has been wrapped up in their electrifying Infamous franchise. It seemed that his creators had left Sly by the wayside, moving on to bigger and better things. All is not lost, though, as Sanzaru Games, who helped develop the recent Sly Collection, have taken over and brought back the thieving ringtail.
The Gang's back and inconspicuous as ever!
Thieves in Time picks up soon after the events of Honor Among Thieves. Between Sly spending his days with Inspector Carmelita Fox, who believes he has amnesia, Bentley running time travel experiments with his girlfriend Penelope, and Murray driving in demolition derbies, the gang has not seen much of one another in some time. Sly’s grown tired of living a law-abiding life, however, and feels the urge to start stealing again. Just as he begins planning a heist, Bentley shows up at his door with disturbing news: The pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, a compendium of teachings passed down by members of the Cooper Clan, have been erased, and Penelope has mysteriously disappeared.
In order to restore the Thievious Raccoonus and find out what happened to Penelope, the Cooper Gang uses Bentley’s time machine to uncover the fate of Sly’s ancestors. By scanning items from a specific time period, Sly can travel to the past and save such famous thieves as ninja sushi master Rioichi Cooper or the feared outlaw, Tennessee "Kid" Cooper, as well as stop the new threat to the Cooper line.
As mentioned earlier, there has not been a fresh Sly adventure since the PlayStation 2 days. Thieves in Time plays and feels much like the titles that came before it, unfortunately, for better or worse. The world, music, and humor all have the same feel as the PS2 games, but many of the problems persist, including Bentley and Murray’s missions being a chore to complete. While it would be nice if the issues stopped there, they don’t. Loading times that are awful in most cases (horrendous the rest), forced motion controls, and a general ignorance of how game design has evolved plagues Thieves in Time.
Boss battles provide a spectacle unmatched by the rest of the game.
There are some aspects that still manage to shine through, though. Despite the fact that combat is preferably avoided, boss battles are a joy, consisting of learning patterns for a chance at a few hits to the enemy's health. In addition, each time period visited grants Sly a different costume, giving him abilities – such as deflecting fireballs or slowing time – that refresh the gameplay whenever they are introduced. Cinematics are also a treat. With quality matching that of animation seen on modern television, cutscenes do more than just a progress the story.
Thieves in Time also supports both Cross-Buy and Cross-Save, meaning that purchasing the game on PlayStation 3 allows you access to the Vita version and the ability to transfer save files between the two systems. As has been the case with the last few titles to support Cross-Buy, the Vita port sees a mostly faithful transition from the PS3. With the exception of some graphical shortcomings and odd compression occasionally found in cutscenes, playing on the handheld largely remains the same.
The Vita version struggles with bouts of bad compression from time to time.
With Jak and Daxter unspoken for and Ratchet and Clank taking some rare missteps as of late, the last great PlayStation 2 platformer takes a risk by not changing up its game. While there are some clear and present problems in Cooper and company's most recent outing, keep in mind that Sanzaru is still a young company. Hopefully this marks a step in the right direction for Sly, and not the beginning of the end. Fans of the franchise will find plenty to love in Thieves in Time, but newcomers would be better off playing the high-definition Sly Collection.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PS Vita (Reviewed)